Remezcla (yeah I've been writing there a lot recently, that's why this blog's been a bit abandoned) and the motherfuckers of the label didn't send advance copies of the album to the media so I wasn't able to formulate all the questions that I have now, after listening to it.
Of course, the label was scared of it leaking. Even Visitante during the interview told me, "you'll find it bootlegged all over the Internet the day after it comes out" and he was right, I stumbled upon it without actually being looking for it. He didn't seem to care about it. These guys seem to be quite pissed off with their record label anyway, this is the last record with them under contract and on the album's intro (one of the best album intros ever produced, I have to say) they talk shit about their label in ways I've never heard before. Like them or not, you gotta give it to them, they have balls and I'll always admire them for that.
But I didn't always admire Calle 13. I remember I totally dismissed them back in 2006 when they came out. They offered me a sit-down interview with them and I refused it because I thought "what am I gonna ask to this douche-bag looking guy with funny hair from fucking Puerto Rico?" and I made the same mistake a lot of other people made: putting them in the same box of all the retarded reggaetoneros. I've never been to the island, but in my imagination, considering the ridiculous amounts of disposable boriqua music that gets exported and the popularity of eyebrow plucking among straight (yeah right!) men, the collective brain power of all Puerto Rico was comparable to that of the cast of Jersey Shore. What intelligent question could this guy answer?
Needless to say, I was wrong. He was way smarter than I expected. Smarter than me and also smarter than all the other purist hip-hop MC's that I admired and defended to death as the best lyricists. Oh yeah, I was wrong. But it didn't take me a lot to realize it. As soon as I actually listened to their debut album for the first time I knew it. This guy can actually rhyme, he has perfect flow and better punch-lines than all those purists put together. He just doesn't get the hip-hop credibility that he deserves because he did a handful of reggaeton hits (god forbid!) back in his beginnings and because he rhymes over beats that are too catchy, too "alternative" and too "Latin" whatever those two things mean, for the orthodox hip-hop heads who still try to emulate Wu-Tang's RZA productions 15 years later.
I'm a reformed orthodox b-boy and now I'm able to give full credit to Calle 13 for being the bestest of the best and for being the most significant thing to happen to Spanish-speaking rap--I mean Spanish language music, in the past decade. Because they did what we all were trying to do and nobody could. They proved to the narrow-minded Latin American mainstream audience (and record label execs) that good rap can be amusing, accessible and dancy at the same time of being full of wisdom and cleverly written lines, (and it could sell by the millions!).
I remember myself back then in the pre-Calle13 era, trying to convert Latin rockeros, trying to get them to sit down and listen to 16 bars of a clever rhymer "you'll see how amazing the lyrics are when you actually pay close attention to them." But it was futile, because in most cases, the smart rhymes came framed on boring-ass repetitive minimalist down-tempo beats. Because they (or should I say we) were all making rap for the exclusive appreciation of an elite of connaisseurs, they (we) were making rap for other rappers and aspiring rappers to listen to. Then Calle 13 came out and it changed it all, making rap so good that my mother could appreciate its goodness without the need of taking a course in hip-hop appreciation and the four elements...
So Calle 13 proved that rap could be good while accessible and proved, at least to me, that there was some intellectual power in Puerto Rico. So now I wonder, why after 4 years of absolute supremacy they still haven't influenced the rest of the scene for good? Why all the reggaetoneros keep making kindergarten-level rhymes and all the "real" rappers keep trying to make J Dilla-style beats? Where is the new school of Calle 13-inspired microphone controllers? How long do we have to wait until they replace the current status-quo of urban radio?